Erodium cicutarium

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Erodium cicutarium
Illustration Erodium cicutarium0.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Geraniales
Family: Geraniaceae
Genus: Erodium
E. cicutarium
Binomial name
Erodium cicutarium

Geranium cicutarium L.

Erodium cicutarium, also known as redstem filaree, redstem stork's bill, common stork's-bill or pinweed, is a herbaceous annual – or in warm climates, biennial – member of the family Geraniaceae of flowering plants. It is native to Macaronesia, temperate Eurasia and north and northeast Africa,[1] and was introduced to North America in the eighteenth century,[2] where it has since become naturalized, particularly of the deserts and arid grasslands of the southwestern United States.[3]

Distribution and ecology[edit]

The plant is widespread across North America. The plant grows as an annual in the northern half of North America. In the southern areas of North America, the plant tends to grow as a biennial with a more erect habit and with much larger leaves, flowers, and fruits. It flowers from May until August. Common stork's-bill can be found in bare, sandy, grassy places both inland and around the coasts. It is a food plant for the larvae of the brown argus butterfly.

The seeds of this annual are a species collected by various species of harvester ants.[4]


It is a hairy, sticky annual. The stems bear bright pink flowers, which often have dark spots on the bases. The flowers are arranged in a loose cluster and have ten filaments – five of which are fertile – and five styles.[5] The leaves are pinnate to pinnate-pinnatifid, and the long seed-pod, shaped like the bill of a stork, bursts open in a spiral when ripe, sending the seeds (which have little feathery parachutes attached) into the air.

Seed launch is accomplished using a spring mechanism powered by shape changes as the fruits dry.[6] The spiral shape of the awn will unwind during daily changes in humidity, leading to a drill-like self-burial of the seeds once they are on the ground.[7] The two tasks (springy launch and self-burial) are accomplished with the same tissue (the awn), which is hygroscopically active and warps upon wetting and also gives rise to the draggy hairs on the awn.

Morphology of E. cicutarium


The entire plant is edible with a flavor similar to sharp parsley if picked young. According to John Lovell's Honey Plants of North America (1926), "the pink flowers are a valuable source of honey (nectar), and also furnish much pollen".[8] Among the Zuni people, a poultice of chewed root is applied to sores and rashes and an infusion of the root is taken for stomachache.[9]


  1. ^ "Erodium cicutarium (L.) L'Hér.". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  2. ^ Philip Stott, Scott Mensing & Roger Byrne (1998). "Pre-mission invasion of Erodium cicutarium in California". Journal of Biogeography. 25 (4): 757–762. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2699.1998.2540757.x.
  3. ^ Nancy E. Stamp (1984). "Self-burial behaviour of Erodium cicutarium seeds". Journal of Ecology. 72 (2): 611–620. JSTOR 2260070.
  4. ^ G. D. Harmon & N. E. Stamp (1992). "Effects of postdispersal seed predation on spatial inequality and size variability in an annual plant, Erodium cicutarium (Geraniaceae)". American Journal of Botany. 79 (3): 300–305. doi:10.2307/2445019.
  5. ^ David Giblin. "Erodium cicutarium, redstem stork's bill, common stork's bill". WTU Herbarium Image Collection. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  6. ^ Dennis Evangelista, Scott Hotton & Jacques Dumais (2011). "The mechanics of explosive dispersal and self-burial in the seeds of the filaree, Erodium cicutarium (Geraniaceae)". Journal of Experimental Biology. 214 (4): 521–529. doi:10.1242/jeb.050567.
  7. ^ p roullard (2013-04-27), Erodium Seed, retrieved 2018-10-21
  8. ^ John H. Lovell (1926). Honey Plants of North America.
  9. ^ Scott Camazine & Robert A. Bye (1980). "A study of the medical ethnobotany of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2 (4): 365–388. doi:10.1016/S0378-8741(80)81017-8. PMID 6893476.

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